Orkut: Lightweight champion for dialup-speed users...

Ready for some links? Here they come: Mark Hurst of the Good Experience blog and Bit Literacy book reports on a CNN story about social-networking underdog (at least in America) Orkut trouncing leaders MySpace and Facebook in certain markets like Brazil and India. (Whew!) So, why would this happen? Is it a cultural-style-and-taste thing, where maybe everyone doesn't like the obscene bells and whistles Americans tend to splash all over their pages? Nope, it's simpler than that - those exact bells and whistles make MySpace (especially) and Facebook (now that it's open to outside apps) much larger pages in terms of data. It turns out that Brazil and India have much lower average internet speeds - 15kbps, about what AOL users had in the US in 1990, according to the CNN article. Therefore, Facebook and MySpace take infuriating minutes to load a single page, while Orkut comes up relatively quickly.

Setting aside what comments I might make about the usability of too-highly-customizable webpages (and especially regarding the monstrosity that is MySpace, I'd have a lot!), it seems that an important lesson is this: usability doesn't just depend on the most appealing ideal design, but on making the right technologically-influenced decisions so a design can actually function in a non-ideal world. In this case, dropping some bells and whistles to make a faster-loading site seems to be a no-brainer for user satisfaction.

Some markets aren't looking for the best website in any category - they're looking for the lightweight champions!

1 comment:

Glars said...

Very interesting observation. I was wondering why Orkut was popular in some of those other areas. I wonder how it will fair once outside developers can make apps for them as well with OpenSocial coming...